Why Get Certified…..Twice?

I frequently am asked about those credentials at the end of my name. One response that comes to mind is that credentials are sort of like wrinkles; they simply accumulate over time. But, a more serious response would have me describe the reasons why I chose to pursue two different professional certifications.

These credentials are represented by the letters ‘RN-BC’ for Registered Nurse-Board Certified in Informatics Nursing, and ‘CPHIMS’ for Certified Professional in Healthcare Information and Management Systems

Like many of you, my career has evolved over time to reflect multiple areas of content and experience. Back in the day when I transitioned from nurse educator to IT liaison, working in a high-tech environment forced me to access many new resources to remain credible. While I understood the importance of STAT from both the clinical and IT perspectives, I was not so well-versed on terms like HL7, ethernet, or MPI. The learning curve was huge, yet important. Beyond the many new acronyms, I also learned about the importance of good design and use of informatics solutions and related technologies to support nursing practice.

This experience led me to pursue my first certification, informatics nursing, sponsored by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). I was one of the first nurses to achieve this certification, and needless to say, I was thrilled to add the credential to my name. To me, earning that credential showed others that I understood how to apply the scope and standards of nursing informatics principles to my practice, which at that time involved analyzing, designing, configuring and implementing systems in a nursing environment.

Informatics certification continues to mature, and as of March 8, 2010, there were a total of 779 actively certified ANCC informatics nurses. In order to maintain validity, role delineation or job analysis studies are typically carried out by certifying bodies, with the goal of describing current practice expectations, performance requirements, and environments.

My career path led to my current role as HIMSS Vice President of Informatics, and my job responsibilities soon expanded beyond nursing.  As I gained broader knowledge, skills and experience, I felt that my credentials needed to broaden as well. So, I pursued the CPHIMS credential, which represents a well-defined body of knowledge that includes the healthcare environment, information systems and technology, privacy and security, leadership and management.

To demonstrate the value of certification, results of the 2011 HIMSS Nursing informatics Workforce Survey show that respondents who have a certification in either nursing informatics or CPHIMS have higher average salaries than those who aren’t certified. And for organizations, these credentials provide concrete, public evidence that they are staffed with individuals who know what they are doing, and that they remain competitive in comparison of quality services.

In summary, my choice to pursue both certifications was driven by the fact that each credential reflects different aspects of my content knowledge and experience. Although maintaining two credentials is not an easy task, I am convinced of their value to my work as an informatics professional, and to my ongoing career advancement.

Do you have one or more professional certifications? If so, what do you see as their value? Has certification helped advance your career, or increase your salary? Please take a moment to share your thoughts.


About Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN

Joyce Sensmeier, RN-BC, MS, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, is HIMSS Vice President, Informatics.
This entry was posted in Blogging, Health IT Workforce, HIMSS News and Developments, Jobs, Leadership, Nursing Informatics and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Why Get Certified…..Twice?

  1. chris says:

    Joyce, enjoyed your article and I passed it on to a few nurses on my staff. I hold a masters in Informatics and was curious if the CPHIMS certification would add vaule. As for increasing my salary, I see that coming. 🙂

  2. Linda Harrington says:

    I think you said it well, Joyce. First and foremost I chose multiple certifications to validate for myself that I know what I think I know. L

  3. Suzy Vaughn says:

    I maintain 3 certifications; each is important to me for different reasons. They validate my knowledge & experience and compliment each other. As far as CPHIMS adding value, it did for me. The IT professionals started taking me seriously since I passed an exam that they were eligible to take.

  4. Sarah Tupper says:

    Great blog, Joyce! I have the same professional certs that you do…ANCC (RN-BC) & HIMSS (CPHIMS). I also have the newer credential of LHIT-HP (Leadership in Health IT for Health Professionals). This educational opportunity & credential was part of the Hi-Tech Act – to educate more health professionals to lead in HIT roles. There was both the UBT Track (University-Based Training), and a track that takes/took place at Community Colleges. I, like you, chose to pursue the ANCC Board Cert in Nursing Informatics first. I took the cert exam in ’06, after I had been in NI Leadership practice at a large IDN after completing a MS in Nursing/Health Systems Admin with a minor in Health Informatics. I, like you, was very pleased to add the credential after my name. Attaining the RN-BC credential helped me to feel more recognized by my colleagues at the bedside who were ANCC Board Certified in their various nursing specialties, as well as my colleagues who were certified in nursing leadership. It is a credential that is easily recognized in nursing circles now, but didn’t change my ability to attain leadership roles in NI, or my salary back in ’06-’07. I chose to sit for the CPHIMS exam almost 2 years ago, as I felt like my knowledge had expanded and I wanted to formalize that knowledge with a credential. The LHIT-HP credential was earned after I completed a year of full-time study at the U of MN. This was a fabulous curriculum and presented very current/cutting-edge knowledge in the field of nursing informatics. I am disappointed to say that the credential is recognized by very few (that I have encountered so far) except those who have the credential or those who teach in the UBT programs. In the consulting work I do, I encounter well-respected organizations who are trying to recruit and hire NI leaders, but don’t know that any of the certification credentials are available, therefore, don’t recruit for these credentials. They don’t understand what the credential implies or why they would want to hire someone with credentials vs. without. In my experience, most orgs are still looking for NI Leaders with only the MS, MSN or even MBA credential. I, personally, feel that at this point, NI Leaders gain credibility “in practice”, after which other leader colleagues will inquire, “what are all of those letters behind your name and what do they mean”? Interesting side note: the organization that I currently have a consulting project with recently asked me to look at a resume of an RN who holds the BSN credential. Their comment to me was that they were planning to pay this person about the same as what I am earning because our resumes were “virtually identical”…you can imagine the flashbacks this brought on of long nights of studying (while being up with a sick baby) and hours spent on group projects in graduate school while working to earn the MS credential! I look forward to the day that my interdisciplinary and leader colleagues recognize the NI credentials as quickly as they recognize my “RN” credential. In a nutshell, I feel that the credentials are more for personal assurance of knowledge at this point…doesn’t seem to really impact salary or position (at least not for me). Question is: what have others done to raise the level of awareness in the organizations and circles that they feel recognize the professional NI credentials? I look forward to the continued discussion…
    Sarah Tupper, MS, RN-BC, LHIT-HP, CPHIMS

  5. Cathy Ivory, PhD, RN-BC, RNC-OB says:

    You are right, each certification represents different skills and expertise. I also maintain 2 certifications, as an informatics nurse and as an inpatient OB nurse. While it may not seem, on the surface, that these specialties are related, informatics influences (or should) every other nursing specialty. Therefore, the certifications complement each other. Yes, maintaining both is a challenge but I am glad to have received both and intend to maintain them because I believe each one is important to my practice.

  6. Teresa N says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and support of certification. It is wise and inspiring. As a staff nurse, I worked hard to obtain certification in critical care and cardiac surgery nursing. I learned a great deal, increased my confidence, and developed a habit of seeking out new knowledge. All of this strengthened the care I was able to provide.. I also feel it has positively contributed to the growth and advancement opportunities I’ve had. Certification in informatics is one my goal list this next calendar year. Thank you for l reading by example and sharing your experiences

  7. Susan K Newbold says:


    Thanks for the article. I have been certified in NI by the ANCC since 1996. I wonder why so few nurses are certified in NI. I think the number you quoted was small and it seems there should be more certified informatics nurses. I am proud of my certification as it is a milestone. I am now considering CPHIMS certification. Both of them represent a commitment to lifelong learning.

    Susan K Newbold

  8. Anne says:

    I’m glad I came across this post. It was good informations. When I was going to nursing school, I had my classmate and instructor telling me that I should go into informatics. Not ever hearing about it or nor ever reading about it, I just took it as a compliment. I really would like to incorporate my past experience with my healthcare knowledge into a career that would be satisfying and rewarding. I will take a look into this to see if this would be a possibility, though it sounds like very many years of schooling. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Terri G, CRNA, MS, CPHIMS says:

    I completed the LHIT-HP course at the University of Colorado in the inaugural class. What a great experience however, never thought to use the initials in my title to indicate that part of my credentialing. I think the CPHIMS exam was very worthwhile and felt well-prepared for it after my classwork at CU. I do indicate my certification as both a professional in Health Information Management Systems as well as an advanced practice Nurse (Anesthetist) and feel it provides an entry into peoples minds that I might have something of value to offer…. then I have a short time to prove it!

  10. margaret senn says:

    Thanks for the discussion and comments. I have been trying to decide if i should get the NI certification or CPHIMS. It sounds like both would be useful, now which do i get first?

    • Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN says:

      Great question, Margaret. My suggestion would be to consider if your informatics practice is more closely aligned with nursing informatics or the broader area of healthcare informatics. If it is closer to nursing, then if I were you I would take the ANCC exam. If your practice is more generalized to healthcare informatics I would suggest taking the CPHIMS exam first. I would be interested in hearing from others on this as well!

      Joyce Sensmeier MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN
      Vice President, Informatics , HIMSS

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